December is always an exciting time for movies; you have your Oscar bait trying to wriggle into theaters just in time for awards season, and therefore a whole slew of American cinema’s best and brightest, or so the marketing will lead audiences to believe. Then, you have your Christmas releases, which are usually some mixture of the award favorites and straightforward fun fare. Then we get to January, where movie choices are usually oddly limited, as if Hollywood and moviegoers feel winded from everything I’ve just mentioned and need a month break. Maybe this is just my skewed perspective, but it cannot just be a matter of coincidence or imagination that my late-January birthday was always spent wishing there was something better in the movies to see with friends for the occasion than Underworld: Evolution or No Strings Attached. Anyway, here are my personal picks for some upcoming films in the winter season I’m very excited for which make the baron month of January seem happily far in the future.
The Wolf of Wall Street
This will be my Christmas-release pick; it has awards buzz but looks exciting and fun in a Scorsese way, of course. I’m pulling for Leonardo DiCaprio to finally get an Oscar, but it doesn’t bode well in my opinion that the Golden Globes have put this film into the musical or comedy category, which is such a problematic category in itself but I wouldn’t want to digress again. I’m looking forward to seeing Jonah Hill in another semi-dramatic role as well. The many controversies surrounding this film—its running time, its release delay and awards conspiracy (which consisted of Leo fans even greater than myself who thought the push back was to , and its use of a chimpanzee—do not help or hurt my expectations, and I really hope it doesn’t affect others’ either. As a Scorsese loyalist, this is my ultimate winter pick.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Before The Wolf of Wall Street’s release got pushed back from November to Christmas, this Ben Stiller directed feature was my most anticipated film of the month. I have no conception mind you of if it will end up being as good as the trailers make it look—it could easily turn from whimsical to cheesy in a matter of seconds. But, I love when Ben Stiller (and Kristen Wiig, for that matter) play somewhat straighter comedic roles; they’re both great at being over the top but what I love about this movie already is that the acting seems downplayed and nuanced, and the film itself seems like it will be likewise heartfelt and feel-good.
Spike Jonze’s technological romance is already getting positive buzz as it opens in select theaters on December 18th, which is when I’ll hopefully be seeing it. Even for those who have to wait until early January, the wait will surely be worth it. I love everything about Spike Jonze’s style and his quirky but relatable characters, played here by Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson as the operating system Phoenix falls in love with. I’m hoping for it to be a unique romance but with a really sweet, human quality (despite the computer love interest at the story’s forefront) and even from the indie-music tinged trailers I do feel like that’s exactly what we’ll be getting.
I’m not sure where or when this film, directed by A Separation’s Asghar Farhadi, is opening other than New York City where I’ll hopefully be seeing it later this month. Berenice Bejo of The Artist fame has already won accolades, most notably a best actress award at Cannes. The trailer does make the film resemble Farhadi’s Oscar winning film A Separation, but Bejo’s acting in the two minute spots alone shines through as something even more haunting and harrowing than what we’ve seen from Farhadi before. I’m really looking forward to this film, because as much as Hollywood, and American independent cinema as well, are flourishing right now, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the mainstream and see what else out there can move you. Plus, I have no doubt that this film will get some recognition from the Academy again.
So there you have it! I could have extended my picks to January but as I mentioned, there really isn’t that much to look forward to in the bleak first month of 2014 unless you’re waiting for Her to land in a city nearer to you. I will say that I’m intrigued for I, Frankenstein, but being mostly unfamiliar with the graphic novel source material and with every shot I’ve seen so far resembling the aforementioned Underworld just a little too closely being brought to us by the same people responsible for those films after all, I feel as though my birthday month this year will entail a lot of Netflix and possibly a deep despair at the newest incarnation of my beloved Shelley creature. That being said, I hope these picks and my expectations help those of you who are unsure what, among all the great movies out there right now, to watch in the coming winter weeks.
Sara majors in Film Studies and Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College. Her favorite genre is horror but she loves learning, writing and talking about all kinds of movies and all forms of entertainment. She has interned with Film Forum and Tribeca Film, both in her native NYC where she hopes to find work in criticism, marketing, distribution, or festival programming post-grad. Her blog and associated Twitter were created with the intention of being more involved and aware of happenings in the film and television industries, as well as to practice writing about pop culture in an academic but friendly and funny way.